The Coral Sea is one of the healthiest tropical marine ecosystems left in our global oceans. From thickly forested islands to small sandy cays, beautiful coral reefs and deep sea canyons; the Coral Sea contains 49 different habitats and supports over 300 threatened species. The Coral Sea needs protecting, and yet the Australian Government has proposed huge sanctuary cutbacks for this region!
Why is the Coral Sea Marine Park important?
The Coral Sea is the cradle to the Great Barrier Reef. Its underwater landscapes are highly varied, with reefs, lagoons, islets and cays, plateaus, canyons, and underwater mountains. Ocean-going species use the scattered reefs, cays and underwater mountains as habitats for feeding, resting, breeding and as a nursery ground.
Wildlife of the Coral Sea
The Coral Sea is a biodiversity hotspot containing 49 different habitats and supporting over 300 threatened species. It is globally recognised for its diversity of large predators such as sharks, tunas, marlin, swordfish and sailfish, and is one of the last places on Earth where populations have not yet been severely depleted. The Coral Sea provides habitat for many endangered species, such as hawksbill and green turtles, and is home to 28 species of whales and dolphins and 27 seabird species.
There are 52 species of deepwater sharks and rays, 18 of which are unique to the Coral Sea. At least 28 species of whales and dolphins are found in these waters, some in pods of up to 400 strong.
The endangered green turtle regularly nests on the undisturbed islets of the Coringa-Herald and Lihou Reef National Nature Reserves. The critically endangered hawksbill turtle uses these islets and reefs for foraging and occasionally for nesting.
Above water, fourteen species of seabird nest and forage on Coral Sea cays, including regionally important populations of red-footed Booby, lesser frigatebird and greater frigatebird.
As the name suggests, the Coral Sea contains abundant hard and soft corals, and large sea fans in a mind-blowing arrangement of colours.
- Diving into the twilight zone (30 – 100m deep), you’re likely to find cold-water corals living on the deep sea knolls rising 200 to 300 metres from the seafloor;
- The hydroid fauna of the Coral Sea (starfish, brittle stars, feather stars,sea cucumbers, etc) is considered to be remarkably rich;
The mollusk fauna is also rich (745 species of mollusks have been found on one cay alone: North East Herald Cay)
The cradle to the Great Barrier Reef
The Coral Sea is a critical link between the Western Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef and further on to the Coral Triangle of Southeast Asia. It provides many of the necessary stepping stones to enable genetic exchanges between species via ocean currents that transport spores, larvae, and migratory animals.
The oceanic currents flowing west from Vanuatu replenish the biological communities that grow on the emergent reefs of the Coral Sea. In turn, these communities are important sources of recruitment for the Great Barrier Reef.
The East Australian Current (EAC) brings aggregations of marine life and therefore plays a very important ecological role. For example: tropical coral larvae are transported by the EAC from the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea reefs to subtropical reefs in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales as far south as the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour.
Region Size Statistics
The Coral Sea Marine Park is one of the largest Marine Parks in the world. It abuts the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and stretches from near the QLD/NSW border, to the tip of Cape York. It’s outer boundary is the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). It is 989 842 km². (this makes it bigger in size than South Australia!)